Champs League test 'difficult', says Ahly coach Jose

Al Ahly fans at a game in 2011
Al Ahly fans will be banned from the game against Wydad Casablanca because of trouble at a previous match

Al Ahly coach Manuel Jose says the Cairo giants face a "difficult" challenge in the group stages of this year's African Champions League.

Ahly are in a pool with Morocco's Wydad Casablanca, Algeria's Mouloudia Alger and Esperance of Tunisia.

Ahly, six-times former winners of the competition, start the group phase with a home match against Wydad on Sunday.

Ahly fans are banned from attending the match because of a number of incidents at a previous game.

Fans let off flares and other devices during a match against Zambia's Zesco United, causing the Confederation of African Football (Caf) to take action.

Jose said his team would miss their supporters - "the fans are the player number 12 in the stadium," he said.

"The first target is to qualify to the semi-finals and then we'll take it from there and will think of the second step."

Al Ahly coach Manuel Jose at a news conference after sealing another league title in 2011
Ahly coach Manuel Jose says he prefers coaching at club level, despite stories linking him to the Egyptian national team

The Portuguese coach turned Al Ahly's season around after re-joining the side where he had so much success previously.

His achievement in taking them to a seventh consecutive title cost the coach of Ahly's great rivals Zamalek, Hossam Hassan, his job.

"Ahly were six points behind Zamalek , but though I wasn't under pressure from officials or fans to claim the title, my job was to try to convince the players that it was still possible to win the league and we did," Jose said.

Jose also took the chance to end any speculation linking him to the vacant post of Egyptian national team coach.

"With national teams, you work every three months and you're always under pressure because the country needs results - but with clubs you work and train daily because there are many competitions and matches," he said.

His immediate concern is the lack of preparation and rest that his team have had for the start of the gruelling Champions League group phase.

"I had to give the players three days off to catch their breath and there will be three more days after the game on 17 July," the coach said.

Ahly against Wydad Casablanca is at Cairo's Military Stadium on Sunday - the other game in Group B features Mouloudia Alger hosting Esperance on Saturday.

Group A of the Champions League contains Al Hilal of Sudan, Nigeria's Enyimba, Raja Casablanca of Morocco and Coton Sport Garoua of Cameroon.

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